Signal And Noise

Signal vs. Noise
Finding the signal in your life may be a matter of noticing. From krossbow’s Flickr photostream.

I think what keeps a lot of people from achieving anything worthwhile or realizing the success they desire is the noise they find in their life. While we cannot escape noise, we can minimize it.

A carpenter who wants to build furniture is going to have sawdust and tools everywhere. The software coder will have work that is lying around, unresolved bugs and areas of unclean code.

Engineers use the signal to noise ratio not only to hit a threshold of acceptable performance but it is also a recognition that there is noise that distorts the signal that is trying to come through. It’s something we live with as necessary in an otherwise imperfect world.

Ultimately, a lot of noise in your life means you are leading an unexamined life. You are lacking vigilance around the pores that seep in stray issues that do not matter towards what matters. Getting clear on what really matters and ensuring that the majority of your work, environment tools and energy are allocated accordingly can create much more signal in your life.

Some Noise Items You Can Live Without

Part of being productive is reducing or removing friction. I think it’s something that is done on many levels. If you can create a habit of being vigilant on what comes into your work and life then you can prevent a lot of noise. These are things that suck up attention, time and focus and do not help you towards valuable things.

My noise may be your signal. It’s up to you to determine based on your goals. Some questions to consider would be:

Are there meetings I need to avoid?

Should I get rid of tools I do not need?

What systems am I managing that could be simplified?

Do I have commitments to groups that do not matter?

What is a drain on my time that could be cut out?

Can I unsubscribe from things I just will not read?

Are there leeches in my life that I need to get away from?

Does this thing I started matter anymore?

The items in the noise bucket should be ruthlessly eliminated. If they are important, more than likely, you can round back and reinsert the commitments, objects or people back into your life later. As a start, why not test their value and see what happens when you remove the noise. You will likely get more time and mind space back that can be used for what matters.

Double Up On The Signal Items

With new resources, there are likely a few items that really matter for your time and attention. If you put more focus and energy into these activities, you get a return of time, money, fame or whatever you are seeking. Here are some questions in this area that can help you decipher what is a signal:

What three things do I do that make me money if I only did those things?

Who are the most important people I should be investing in that bring joy and prosperity to my life?

Where should I live and work that naturally brings immense value?

Can I consolidate tools and systems?

How can I develop a habit of reading more?

What is on my short list every day that needs to get done first?

What do I find is easy, fun and profitable at the same time?

What do I do that is scarce and valuable?

I would not get overwhelmed by all the questions. The goal is to simplify so you can execute. There is some kind of signal to noise ratio occurring for your work. I think it’s worth examining and designing your life with deliberate decisions that make you do the hard work that matters and less of the stuff that sucks your time and attention.

So, what are some signals that really matter for you? What noise can you get rid of?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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